‘Kingsman’: a Brexit explainer?

So much has been written about the rise of ‘Populism’. Many commentators have speculated on its origins while others struggled to work out what it all means and why it has come out. Examples of this populist wave include Trump, the Italian Five Star Movement and the British vote to leave the European Union.

You might not think that Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman:The Secret Service, a gratuitous adventure in violence and comedy, could shed any light on populism. But think again.

Kingsman tells the story of ‘Eggsy’, played by Taron Egerton, a working class lad recruited into an international secret service called Kingsman. Independently funded, these super sleuths represent old-fashioned values of chivalry and are the epitome of the English gentleman. Before you rush off to a safe space, women can become Kingsman too. If you haven’t seen the film and are trying to work out what his type of agent would look like, then imagine Jacob Rees-Mogg with a martini.

The villains of the piece is Valentine played brilliantly, as always, by Samuel L Jackson. Valentine is a tech billionaire worried about global warming. He was donating large sums to research to deal with the problem but frustrated by a lack of results and politicians inability to act, he hits on another plan. Valentine reasons that the things that people do are over-heating the planet. If they can’t be persuaded to change heir behaviour then the only answer is to eliminate the problem, as someone recently said on TV, literally.

Valentine’s conspiracy to wipe out billions of lives to save the planet requires the help of the rich, politicians and Royalty. Not all agree, notably a Swedish Princess who, like others who resist, is kidnapped.

Valentine claims he cherishes humanity. To save it from itself, from its overpopulated ways, it needs to be culled while saving the elites who will create a new world. Meanwhile ordinary people get on with their lives, oblivious to the fact that others are making life and death decisions about them.

The forces stopping this are the gentleman, and gentlewoman, dedicated to being on the side of the people. It is no coincidence that the film also has Royalty objecting to this Malthusian plan.

The villains here are the people who think they know best, who are self-serving and selfish while claiming to be selfless.

Kingsman is an outlandish film. It is a homage to, and resetting of, the Bond genre. But it also reflects the spirit of the age: decisions that affect how people live are made by distant elites. Inevitably people kickback. They want to control their lives and are opting for politicians who are challenging the political consensus. That might not be the best option, as many of these politicians peddle Nativist theories and will undoubtedly be as addicted to power as their predecessors. But there is another alternative: freedom.

 

 

Alex Chatham

Alex has been an occasional blogger for Liberal Vision.

We thought we knew about war

Series two of popular US TV show The 100 finished its UK run this week. The series had a dark, epic, complex plot hiding under the covers of a teen sci-fi drama. The final episode was a corker, disturbing, dramatic and thought-provoking it’s only weakness is that the prelude to season 3 did not look half as good, but season 3 can wait for later.

In our libertarian home one of us is consistently anti-war, i.e. was opposed to Syria and the action against ISIS in Iraq. The other favoured a limited intervention on behalf of the Yazidi but opposed all the other recent examples of foreign military intervention. The third likes to pull hair and sometimes to bite noses but isn’t yet able to march anywhere, let alone to war. So, between us, we’re pretty much anti-war. It seems we are typical of libertarians on that score.

What is interesting is that our reaction to the decisions made by characters in The 100 was not exactly consistent with our prior views. This is something that will need a little explaining:

In the first episode of season 1 the 100 are dropped to Earth from the orbiting Ark. They are “expendable” criminals and are being sent as an experiment. 97 years earlier the Earth was irradiated by a nuclear war, the 100 will find out if the radiation is sufficiently abated that the people of the Ark – who become known as “sky people” can survive there. A doctor on the Ark has some sort of theory that they can and the Ark is running out of oxygen, so it is time to find out.

The Earth is indeed survivable, but it is also full of savage survivors – the warlike “grounders”. It takes every sinew of moral fibre and every material resource to survive war with the grounders and so in the moment that the grounders are defeated the shadowy hazmat clad “mountain men” step in and capture 47 of the remaining criminals, just as the rest of the sky people crash to the Earth after their own conflicts come to an end. Such is the set up to season 2.

In season 2 we discover that the mountain men are bleeding the gounders for enzymes in their blood that process radiation. This is an evolved feature of the grounder population that also evolved in, or was genetically engineered into, the sky people. The mountain men have been hiding in a bunker for 97 years and have not evolved this ability. They are ruthless, literally blood thirty, and will do anything to get back to the beautiful wilderness of the ground. The mountain men discover that permanent immunity to radiation poisoning is available if they harvest every last drop of bone marrow from the 47 captives, killing all of them. Clarke is the leader who emerges to stop this.

The sky people fight hard to win the trust of the grounders and form a tense alliance. A military strategy involves sabotage infiltration information management and distraction gives them early dominance as their enemy falls under new leadership. They lay siege to the mountain bunker. A strike against the power plant renders life support largely inoperable and confines the mountain men to level 5, where there is a mess hall and a dorm. In the dorm around 40 remaining captives, and later the elite from the Ark, are confined. The scene becomes grizzly as the mountain men slaughter the sky people one by one, extracting bone marrow with a drill and expanding the force able to operate outside of level 5 and outside of the bunker. Their new president, Cage, is obsessed with the ground but is close to defeat. Consulting his father, the usurped President Dante, he suggests a deal is done with grounders to release hundreds of bloodstock grounders rom the dungeons, taking the wind out of the alliance and leaving just five individual sky people to a final desperate bid to save their people.

Grounder-trained bad-ass Octavia, and nerdy leader of the captives Jasper, find their way into level 5, seeking oxygen for mountain man turncoat Maya – Jasper’s love interest. Lead sky-person, Clarke, and her love interest Bellamy (Octavia’s brother) break into the control room in an irradiated part of the bunker. With them is electronics geek Monty, and their captive former President Dante.

The story’s ending is available on YouTube. If the above has not wetted your appetite for The 100 then these videos tell the rest of the story I want to talk about. If the show looks good to you, then go watch the whole thing instead.

And that, for today, will have to do. I hope you see what I’m talking about when I say there was a genuinely hard decision depicted here. What are you thoughts on it? My wife and I will you our thoughts shortly.

In Lambeth a play starring Tom Paine

“In Lambeth” is a play set on the eve of the Storming of the Bastille in the titular London borough. Thomas Paine flees a mob and finds himself in the garden of intellectual fellow traveller William Blake, who’s arboreally elevated full frontal nudity adds to the drama and serves to highlight the two men’s differing approaches to social change.

The Blakes

Still from promotional video

Cultured correspondent Ed Hallam saw the opening performance on Thursday and says “I imagine the libertarians would enjoy it”. Knowing Ed a little, I think his opinion is certainly worth a gamble.

This is not the first run for the play so we can look back at the previous reviews. Derek Watts of the Crawley Observer saw the 2009 production and is more skeptical than Ed. He described the play as an “interesting but ultimately somewhat directionless piece”, but also provides a romantic description of the plot, acting, and the production, including the following:

Tom Paine, pamphleteer, revolutionary, republican has stumbled into the Lambeth garden of William Blake, the visionary artist, poet and dissident. He is given a meal and a lot of booze and the two men trade images of a perfect world. For the most part they share those dreams but they differ fundamentally in how to get there. Paine is the pragmatic politician, whose starting point is what exists and stressing that revolution is achieved by mobilizing the people to overthrow the system. Blake is the romantic visionary, the idealist who believes that before you can have revolution you have to have revelation, which may or may not include the odd spot of regicide along the way.

Love and Madness carries photographs of the 2009 production and additional reviews.

Spellbound Productions’ “In Lambeth” was written by Jack Shepherd. The run continues until Saturday 2nd August at The Southwark Playhouse. The show starts 7.30pm and there is a matinee at 3pm.

After the Tuesday show there will be a discussion with the cast and creative team after the show. That sounds like an excellent opportunity for a contribution from active libertarians.

Ayn Rand’s Words Live On

Earlier this week, the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA announced that Penguin Random House will be publishing a “lost” novel that Rand wrote in 1934. The title is Ideal which shares the same title as a previously published play of hers. This novel will be released by July 2015, in a single volume with the play.

At this year’s upcoming 2014 Objectivist Summer Conference (Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas, June 27-July 4), the Ayn Rand Institute will be hosting a Q&A session about the book. Ayn Rand’s intellectual heir, Dr. Leonard Peikoff, will be answering questions there concerning this “lost” novel.

wpid-ayn_rand1.jpgAround the 1950s, Ayn Rand became well-known for her two works of fiction: Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. These novels promoted and supported a new philosophy which she called, Objectivism. Objectivism includes 5 major philosophical branches: 1) metaphysics, 2) epistemology, 3) ethics, 4) esthetics, and 5) politics. These divisions make up her philosophy that essentially stresses individual rights and freedom from coercion to find happiness for oneself. It is a guide for how to live life here, on earth.

Following her fiction, she wrote non-fiction which further developed, explained, and expanded her own Objectivist philosophical theory.

Ayn Rand spent her entire life creating a world that she saw as possible for man to attain. Inspired by the works of Aristotle, she wrote about man as a hero. She glorified his accomplishments and vision throughout the ages. She believed in heroes.

Heroes are needed more than ever before in this country. We require leaders who can take responsibility for their actions, as with the Benghazi attack. We need heroes who can say that the Affordable Health Care Act does not work. We desire frontrunners that will butt heads with the NSA. We want individuals to stand up for themselves and their country at large. Men and women who will put an end to this mixed economy and allow for the free market system to thrive. People who will seek to teach others about man’s ego and his right to use “I” in a sentence – to use “I” as a basis for a rational, moral foundation.

Ayn Rand wrote and spoke about those invisible heroes, and there has been controversy over it ever since. Yet, her voice continues to grow stronger with each passing year.

Do you want to know why this “lost” novel means so much to the country right now? It is because Rand’s books are prophetic and the American people are crying out for a hero that has yet to be found. America burns for inspiration, guidance, and eloquence to combat these rough times.

We the people are desperately searching for the ideal hero who is always there in Ayn Rand’s novels.

Rise Headless and proceed scientifically

It is not often I read fiction, and the ghost horror genre is not something I would have chosen straight away. Yet in Rise Headless and Ride, it is as if the author Richard Gleaves listed the seven virtues named in Galt’s Speech together with their opposites and mapped them onto the hero and villain directly. For a fan of Rand’s philosophy good quality fiction is a huge relief.

You might think the supernatural is not the realm of clear rational long term thinking, or a respect for moral science – indeed for science of any kind.  Yet, if you are willing to suspend your disbelief in psychometry, tarot cards and ghosts then you’ll be rewarded with a story about the scientific method of living life.

Jason Crane, our protagonist and the last descendant of Ichabod Crane, is a nerdy bullied orphaned teenager displaced from familiar surroundings and dumped into the high school at Sleepy Hollow, of Legend fame. The town is obsessed with the supernatural – it’s good for business – but no-one takes it seriously, especially Jason. His main allies are Eliza, his Grandmother, an aging genealogy enthusiast seeking one last adventure; and Joey the gravedigger’s son and lead singer in the school band. A murder and a genealogy project draw Jason into the world of the supernatural where it becomes obvious he has a Gift for extra-sensory perception. It is a schoolmaster’s gift, an ability to see the truth through visions triggered by objects, but Jason has difficulty accepting it. By turning to scientific experiments, however, he proves to himself that it is real and decides he must believe his own eyes.

The text is light and easy to read, characters are rich, and the emotion is often raw. There are no philosophical treatises embedded in the centre like 1984 and the climax is a homage to the thrilling chase of the legend, not a wordy speech like Atlas Shrugged. Yet the ideas are there: a love of life, respect for the true value in people, independence of mind, rationality and justice all presented in brief touches that are sensitive to the plot.

The antagonist – Hadewych Van Brunt – is a typical slick talking villain whose charming and flirtatious ways grate on Jason and on the reader. Yet in private the villain is a slob operating with a sense of entitlement and destiny reminiscent of Gail Wynand, but without any redeeming features. He rationalises his evil deeds as altruism directed towards his son. We pity the villain just as Jason has to decide whether his life will be best served by beheading him with a spade. The book is not short of gore.

Eliza wants Jason to settle in and sets him up with a friend, in the form of the villain’s son Zef, but our hero has high standards of the people in his life and will make up his own mind. Their first encounter ends with Jason humiliated in a stunt initiated by the school jocks. Jason is not afraid to tell Zef that he should not have gone along with it. From here the hero’s successes are gained through the application of reason and honest conduct, his major setback – a disaster of such magnitude that it remains unresolved after 349 pages – is the result of a momentary breakdown in honesty and independence. A lapse motivated perhaps by altruism, and a respect for the wishes of credulous Eliza, that sees Jason acting against his better judgement.

arise-headlessThe book is not perfect – the maternal love between Eliza and Hadewych is hard to grasp. An ill advised forward slash interupts the final chase, I think I noticed one continuity error, but one struggles to find fault. These are minor flaws in a great book which deserves to do very well. Thanks to a flood of positive Amazon reviews it has made it to the top of the best-sellers list for US horrors, but it has not been easy for the author. The unfulfilled love between Joey and Zef was enough to have the book temporarily classified as erotica and pulled from the best-seller lists for a range of key genres. Today, justice is done and a free promotional period begins right in time for Halloween, part of a compensating deal with Amazon. As a result, you can now download the book to your Kindle reader on any Amazon Kindle device and both major smartphone platforms – and it is available to order in paperback internationally.

I suggest you do, as this thrilling story is well worth your time.

 

Rise Headless and Ride, by Richard Gleaves (part 1 of the “Jason Crane” series)

Paperback $11.24 and free on Kindle today.

 

 

The Jason Crane series volume 1 is out.

Normally when I recommend books, I set them up as revenue generating links. Not this time. Richard Gleaves, the objectivist playwright, videographer and now author has released the first in his series of horror books. I’ve seen (and used) enough of Richard’s other work to order it on ahem.. faith and to mention it here as a piece of news. It is not often “our lot” write books with the potential for mass appeal.arise-headless

My hero is an atheistic kid who discovers that certain supernatural things are real — so it’s a what if story for Objectivists, exploring how would you react and proceed. It’s not an Objectivist story per se, but it is consistent with an Objectivist sense of life and concerns. It’s moral code is essentially pagan and pro-heroic view of man.

From the blurb:

JASON CRANE just turned seventeen years old. He’s a STAR WARS fan and a history geek. He doesn’t believe in ghosts or the afterlife. He doesn’t believe in psychic powers or tarot cards. He doesn’t believe in the HEADLESS HORSEMAN. But SLEEPY HOLLOW will change all that. Because Jason Crane has a heritage to claim.

Apparently, Gleaves is looking forward to writing off ghost hunting trips as a business expense. Hopefully, he’ll take a break and finish off that video series first!

 

UPDATE Jennifer Snow’s review reads:

One of the best aspects of this book, I think, is that it is multi-generational.  Too many novels that focus on a young adult protagonist (sixteen in this case) treat older people as if they were a different species and only the shallow, transient interests of the young protagonist are important.  In this case, while Jason Crane does exhibit youthful preoccupations, this is shown more as a stage of development, a striving toward adulthood to take on adult concerns without being a faux adult.  It also lacks the Lord of the Flies-style situation where the young people are abandoned by their elders to degenerate into savagery.  I much prefer this treatment to The Hunger Games and even Harry Potter.

Thursday Speaker: Aiden P Gregg

Aiden P Gregg

Aiden P Gregg

Our speaker for Thursday is an academic psychologist who wants to talk about a very specific psychological problem in a great deal of depth. “Oh god really?” I hear you cry? “Is this going to be some kind of post-modern lefty bollocks about people’s relationships with their fathers?”. An understandable concern, so let’s deal with that. Here is one random thought shared by Dr Gregg in 2010:

No matter how powerful, knowledgeable, beneficient, discriminating, sophisticated, or sensitive someone is, they cannot change via declaration either the status of an existing act with a particular moral character, or the status of an existing object with a particular moral character. They can only recognize the status of that existing act or object. They can, of course, perform morally good acts or create aesthetically beautiful objects; but that is the limit of their powers.

That sounds to me, and this is speculation, like someone was just starting out on the road to a serious change in their political outlook. Encouragingly, it is entitled “Might makes neither right nor lovely”. Does this still sound like academic bollocks, or more like familiar sensible epistemology?

The next surprising thing about Aiden is his political views. I could have invited a died-in-the-wool lefty to the pub, it might have made for a passionate argument, but Aiden declares himself an anarcho-capitalist. No hardcore lefty, he is a hardcore libertarian… and an academic. That’s not just surprising but strategically important.

Dr Aiden P. Gregg lectures in the School of Psychology at the University of Southampton. He has a degree from Trinity College Dublin, and earned his PhD at Yale. Barnes and Noble list his interests as

  • self-enhancement and self-verification motives
  • the functions of self-esteem
  • the antecedents of implicit attitudes
  • lie detection via response incompatibility.

It might be expected that a libertarian academic would be ostracised and rejected by an intellectually homogenous academia. So far Aiden has defied that expectation and published articles in well cited and influential journals including the Personality and Social Psychology Review ranked 6th in the field. He has also served as reviewer for such journals as Psychological Science, and Journal of Experimental Social Psychology ranked 13th and 45th. If there is anything bad to say about his record, it would be that it is inevitably partially state funded.

And what of the talk? Attendees of the open mic night will have met Aiden before and will be familiar with his brand of fiction. His contribution was to read the story of a murdered tax refusnik to stunned silence. Aiden’s artful fiction, while essentially containing criticisms not positive depictions, certainly brings the moral character of what libertarians are against vividly to life. He may be reinforcing a fear or anger, rather than positivity, but it is nevertheless highly motivating.

This weeks session will focus on the intellectual consequences of what he observes in his fiction. This is how Aiden explained the impact of his work to his previous host (with some links added):

In Western cultures, however, the proactive seizure of a portion of someone’s property (or income, its monetary representation), for the purposes of enriching some while impoverishing others, if democratically elected rulers so dictate, is readily accepted by most democratic voters, and is seen not only as permissible, but also as obligatory, or at all events, regrettably necessary.

In contrast, in the same cultures (though not others), the proactive seizure of a portion of someone’s body, for the purposes of sexually satisfying some while sexually dissatisfying others, if democratically elected rulers so dictate, is firmly rejected by most democratic voters, and is seen as not only forbidden, but also as repugnant, and in any case, wholly unnecessary.

If, ethically speaking, it is not the case that one is legitimate but the other is not – and I shall attempt to rebut several key objections – then the acceptance of the first, but the rejection of the second, is an ethical bias stands in need of explanation.

Quite so.

Before attending this talk at the Rose and Crown, please be sure to prime your intuitions with this short story.